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Staying silent on transgender rights is not an option

March 30, 2022, 10:19 AM UTC
Demonstrators gather in Minnesota, Texas, on March 6, to protest against anti-transgender legislation in Texas and around the country.
Michael Siluk—UCG/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Queer workers and their allies have made it abundantly clear that the recent wave of discriminatory anti-LGBTQ+–and specifically anti-transgender–legislation sweeping the nation is intolerable and unacceptable. They’ve raised a call to arms that we, as employers and leaders of corporations, have an obligation to rally to.

The era of clear delineation between work and home life has steadily eroded over the past decade due to the proliferation of technology and connectivity. Most recently, the employee-employer social contract has experienced a seismic shift, exacerbated by the pandemic’s push toward remote work, especially for knowledge workers.

With work and life intricately interweaving inside their homes, workers are increasingly demanding that companies recognize and support them with more meaningful action beyond merely providing a paycheck. In fact, nearly eight in 10 employees expect their employer to act on social issues, according to a recent report from Edelman. As trust in government continues to erode, workers expect even more from their companies.

Informed business leaders are likely already familiar with the hurtful, divisive, and outright dangerous laws being proposed that specifically target LGBTQ+ and trans communities. In Texas, the governor and attorney general are seeking to criminalize many aspects of parenting trans children, including providing age-appropriate, medically necessary, and gender-affirming healthcare.

In Florida, the “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill threatens to silence and invalidate the children of LGBTQ+ families. As a parent, it’s abhorrent to think that I couldn’t provide physician-recommended medical care for my child, or that they would be prohibited from speaking about our family in school.

Corporations cannot remain neutral in the face of these pernicious bills because the targets of these laws are our community members and colleagues. Our inaction will impact their engagement, productivity, and ultimately business results.

Study after study shows the importance of belonging at work. When employees feel isolated, the result is a less committed and engaged workforce. LGBTQ+ people who are not comfortable openly discussing self-identity at work are 73 times more likely to say they will leave their companies in the next three years, according to the Out & Equal Workplace Equality Fact Sheet.

There are direct and immediate actions business leaders can and should take to demonstrate their commitment to standing with marginalized employees. Leaders need to clearly articulate their values, then ask themselves if they are really living up to them. At Yelp, we believe that by standing up for basic human rights as a company, we uphold the values we’ve communicated and stood for over the past 18 years.

In order for values to be more than pithy words on a poster, they must be translated into action. Before making a decision, companies should listen to their employees and seek out their opinions to understand what matters most to them and how these issues may impact them.

Regular dialogue with employee resource groups goes a long way toward creating an inclusive workplace and can inform how you respond to these increasingly frequent threats against fundamental human rights.

Finally, companies that value diversity, equity, and inclusion need to speak up and stand with the communities targeted by this hateful legislation.

In my capacity as Chief Diversity Officer, I advocated for making a public and visible statement that we stand with the trans community by signing an open letter to Texas lawmakers, making it clear that discrimination is bad for business.

The cost of staying silent–morally and fiscally–far outweighs the cost of supporting our LGBTQ+ friends, their families, and our customers.

Miriam Warren is Yelp’s Chief Diversity Officer

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